• Mark Strong

Communication is key

(Cover Image Credit: World Bank Photo Collection)


The other day, I volunteered for a shift...

...and noticed something in common with my old career of teaching language: context! There is a linguistic concept of generativity, which means that humans can create sentences never said before and understand sentences never heard before. We can cheat a little and say that someone's accent, stress on words and intonation plays into crafting unique sentences just as well as something more obvious like word choice. What I'm getting at is that we spend so much time communicating things, but sometimes the quality of information can just be plain terrible. That's why I suggest you bring photos of your projects and/or tools so that the conversation can be one of learning and progress instead of repetition and frustration. You might be stopped in a project and come into the tool library, ready to explain your situation only to get an urgent phone call or lose the topic in chitchat. You might use the word sawzall instead of reciprocating saw, or want to describe an oscillator as that buzzy thing that can sand or cut with all the attachments. Regardless, if you as a borrower bring a picture of the hedge you're trimming, the door you're fixing or the piece of furniture you're adjusting, it can go a very long way in spending less time describing problems and more time generating a solution.


Speaking of saving time: reserving your tools can make a huge difference. I live 10 minutes away from SKTL and need to work on making reservations, personally. I usually show up and am prepared to wait and get suggestions, or otherwise take home what's available. However, sometimes I do that in the middle of a rush and that is the hardest time to have questions answered and knowledge shared. That 10-minute lead time may have been between customers when the staff could prepare my order before addressing their next customer. For borrowers who know what tools they want, you can still make your trip a lot shorter by reserving, or spend time in the library with staff talking about other things and not simply waiting for retrieval.


The example note for the Air Compressor check out reads: Might need a larger air compressor. This is for a nail gun.

For borrowers who don't quite know what they want: that's fine, too! Go ahead and make reservations of the tools you think you'll need, and take advantage of the notes section!


If you're a first-time user of a tool, don't forget to look up the model number. Sometimes a YouTube How-To video isn't quite enough to get started. For example, all of the videos I watched for my hardwood floor job suggested a nail gun, when all I needed was a much smaller and lighter brad nailer, which is electric and doesn't need an air compressor. Affixing trim became so much easier and more accessible.


Other tips:


A diagram of what looks like a toilet bowl with dimensions in inches.
Even crudely sketching it out will give you a leg up. Credit: laurence


Do some planning. The checkout limit from the Tool Library is 5 items, but how much work do you expect to do in 1 week? Get your scope right!


Photos are SUPER valuable, and so is measuring. Know your space. How much room do you have to leave tools and materials for your project? Is your car big enough to take home the tools you're borrowing? Do you need a 6' ladder or a 9' ladder?


An elderly man splits wood.
What a legend! Credit: Rum Bucolic Ape

For gardeners, a safe bet is to use hedge trimmers for branches 1/4" and thinner, a sawzall/reciprocating saw for branches 4" and thinner, and a chainsaw for anything larger than 4". Also, as cool as it looks, it's not safe nor wise to use a chainsaw to split logs. Sledge and wedge, baby!


All of these things will minimize your time waiting, schlepping items between us and your home or site, and keep conversations productive and educational!